Tag Archives: Shortbread

Parmesan, fennel, and sea salt shortbreads

Okay, stay with me. The title of this post might sound…odd. But I promise you, these are one of the easiest and most addictive nibbles around.

This recipe was my introduction to savory shortbreads, and I’m absolutely hooked. The flavor combination is sophisticated and lovely: fragrant with fennel, savory with salt, and sharp with cheese and black pepper. They’re a fabulous snack or party nibble, and I tend to make them for every potluck I’m invited to these days. Or, sometimes, I’ll just whip up a batch for myself and parcel them out over a week or so, as an afternoon treat with a mug of tea.

I’ve tweaked the proportions a bit from the original Bon Appetit recipe, dialing back the sugar and slightly upping the cheese. I also modified the method: instead of chilling and rolling out the dough, I simply press it into a baking dish. Then, while the shortbread is still hot from the oven, I cut it into squares with a sharp knife. It’s easier and less messy than rolling out, and it means you can go from “I want cookies!” to having cookies in the oven in a matter of minutes.

Honestly, the hardest part of this recipe is grating a giant pile of cheese. You do need a lot of it–at least 1 cup, though you could go as high as 1 1/2 cups if you’ve got the patience (and the arm strength). And the cheese really does need to be freshly grated, if at all possible. Pre-grated Parmesan–even the relatively good-quality stuff–just won’t have the same flavor, and the added anti-caking agents can mess with the bake.

This is one of those recipes that’s gloriously adaptable. I’d recommend making it at least once as written, but then feel free to tweak it as you see fit. You could use just about any tangy hard cheese in place of the Parmesan, like aged Manchego or Gruyere, or even extra-sharp cheddar. You could omit the fennel seeds, or replace them with another seasoning–maybe some cumin or caraway seeds on top, or minced fresh rosemary or thyme in the dough itself. For me, the only non-negotiables are black pepper in the dough and flaky sea salt on top.

parmesan fennel shortbread plate

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Green tea butter cookies

I’ve been sitting on this recipe for a while. Not for any good reason, since these little green tea shortbreads are wonderful. But it never quite felt like the right time to share them. First Thanksgiving, and then the start of real soup-and-stew season, and then, really, the world has so many sugary holiday goodie recipes already, why post this one, and, and, and…

But you know what? It’s almost Christmas, the perfect cookie time, and these are so simple and sophisticated and the perfect shade of festive green. So I’m sharing them now, and I’m pretty excited about it.

These are the second green tea cookie recipe I’ve tried so far, and like the chocolate chip cookies, they’re a real winner. They’re based on a French shortbread, or sablĂ©, recipe, lightened up with cake flour and just a touch of baking powder. The resulting texture is sandy and rich like a good shortbread, but without the lingering graininess: these cookies really do melt in your mouth.

The matcha powder stains the dough a deep forest green, and if you taste the dough raw–which I cannot confirm or deny that I did–you might think the flavor is a little too intense. But in the oven, the color softens to a mossier green, and the green tea flavor becomes more delicate. Rolling the dough in coarse sugar is an optional step, but I highly recommend it, as the slight crunch around the outside of the cookies makes them even more elegant and lovely.

As I’m writing, I can’t help thinking that this is a terrific Christmas cookie recipe. The dough comes together in a matter of minutes, and once it’s been shaped into logs and chilled for a couple hours, you can simply slice off and bake as many cookies as you like. It also seems like a fairly kid-friendly recipe, since you could put small hands to work helping shape the bright green dough and roll it in sugar. And finally, like so many shortbreads, this seems at its best when eaten indoors on a cold winter day, possibly dunked into a mug of hot cocoa or–you guessed it–green tea.

green tea butter cookies

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Shortbread cookies

Disclaimer: I have been on an epic sweets-making bender for the past week. The next few posts here are going to be devoted to cookies and candies. I hope you don’t mind too much.

I’ll start with something on the savory side of sweet: rosemary shortbread cookies. I got a packet of them as a party favor from my office’s holiday shindig last week, and I’ve been obsessed ever since.

I don’t celebrate Christmas, but these seem like the perfect Christmas cookie: salty-sweet and tinted with honey, fragrant in a way that reminds me of evergreen trees. They’re sturdy enough to be packaged as gifts, but sophisticated enough that you’re bound to really impress someone. I love these little guys.

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